In my working life (which was drilled in to me at McDonalds when I was 15), you always needed to be busy, show that you are doing something. And so there’s always that perception, if Person A worked late every day but Person B did a standard day, it’s obvious that Person A is dedicated to do more work right? In my experience, we spend a lot of time trying to justify the time or number of hours that we do at work as a measure of ones dedication and effectiveness in the job.
However, after sampling Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds by Scott Berkun it has really changed my perspective on this.
When I was younger I thought busy people were more important than everyone else. Otherwise why would they be busy? It seemed like an easy way to decide who mattered and who didn’t. The busy mattered more and the lazy mattered less. This is the cult of busy: by always doing something, we assume you must be successful or important.”
Before having my mind blown, this is how I saw effectiveness at work and it’s what has been drilled in ever since I worked at McDonalds. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”. In fact, I’d go as far to say (for me) that I’d feel guilty or lazy if I wasn’t trying to do something productive (which is probably why I read so much non-fiction and it’s probably why I’ve felt like I’ve lost the ability to have fun). But in the working world, people always need to appear to be busy. We mock the guy taking a siesta in his cubicle because he should be working.
Are you Lazy if you’re More Efficient?
The person that does their job in one hour seems less busy than the guy who can only do it in five. How busy a person seems is not necessarily indicative of the quality of their results. Someone who is better at something might very well seem less busy, simply because they are more effective.
When we went to Sea World on the Gold Coast there were only two thrill rides that I wanted to go on. One was called Jet Rescue and the other was Sea Viper. The line up for Sea Viper was longer both in length (but not by much) and wait time (30 mins compared to about 10 minutes). Usually for me when it came to judging what makes a good ride (prior to riding it) was long lines + long wait times = popular = awesome! As it turns out, this was fake busy-ness brought on by only one coaster going and unenthusiastic staff leaving long wait times between starting the ride. 10 seconds later and some banged up ears and it was all over.
Everyone gets the same amount of time every day and so cutting corners to try and save time doesn’t really lead anywhere because when do you get that time back and what do you do with that time when you get it back? Also, when you say “I don’t have time to do x”, what you’re actually saying is that on the list of my current priorities, what you’re requesting doesn’t make my list.
If You’re Busy, You’re Probably Time Poor
People who are busy are time poor. They are either trying to do too much or they aren’t doing what they’re doing very well. They are failing to be effective with their time, so they scramble at trying to optimise for everything, which leads to optimising nothing.
By this definition, I’ve been really time poor. *Looks at the pile of great ideas that I’ve started but never progressed*. Because of this quest to be “busy”, I “didn’t have time” to just catch up with friends. Based probably on the initial premise of being busy = important.
Manage Your Time Better and Get Time Rich
People who have control over time always have some in their pocket to give to someone in need. A sense of priorities drives their use of time and it can shift away from the ordinary work that’s easy to justify, in favor of the more ethereal deeper things that are harder to justify. They might seem to idle, or relax more often than the rest, but that just might be a sign of their mastery, no their incompetence.
In order to not appear lazy, we end up trying to give the semblance of being busy, this in turn could actually create less effective workers. It has also been well documented that people can’t really work for lengthy stints in a row (around 90 minutes) and that most of my best creative ideas come from when you’re actually doing something else (watching a movie, taking a shower, dropping a deuce). So with a mind shift, it’s probably time to stop doing busy-work and starting too many projects and get time rich.
Reference: Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds by Scott Berkun.